Shimon Peres defends Israel's policies as vital to security
Q&A with Shimon Peres on Israel. The Israeli president says the Gaza blockade was put in place to protect the Jewish state from terrorism.
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Ed Sanders: As Israel prepares to ease the land blockade of Gaza – even though Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit remains in custody and Hamas is still in power – many Israelis have been asking whether the economic embargo over the last three years achieved anything tangible. Did it?
Shimon Peres: Israel wanted to tell the Palestinian people that (Hamas rocket attacks against Israel) would harm them. But with two reservations: first, that it not become a collective punishment and, second, that it not create an inhumane situation. So we measured everything. Is there enough water, enough food, enough medical supplies? I’ve seen reports about the situation in Gaza and the narrative was extremely negative. But when you looked at the people, they dressed properly. The markets were full. It was a contradiction. It’s not by accident that there was not a humanitarian crisis. We felt responsible. But Hamas is the one who destroyed everything. That is being forgotten.
Sanders: But did the Israeli restrictions on civilian goods and supplies help further Israel’s policy goals?
Peres: I can’t answer that, and I don’t know if that’s even important. We’d hoped for more. We’d hoped that once out of there (after Israel’s 2005 unilateral disengagement from Gaza Strip), we would be out. But once we left Gaza, we couldn’t understand why they were bombing us. We were seriously surprised by the reaction. I still don’t understand. If the rulers of Gaza would demilitarize and de-terrorize Gaza, there would not be a problem. The fate is in their hands.
Sanders: Some worry Israel is entering another period of international isolation. Turkish relations are on the rocks. The UN is pushing for an international inquiry into the May 31 flotilla raid. We’ve seen cultural boycotts. At the same time, some Western allies are angry over Israel’s alleged misuse of passports in its spy operations. Is Israel losing its friends internationally?
Peres: The fact that (outsiders) are pressing us doesn’t mean that they’re right. There is an attempt to delegitimize Israel. It’s quite easy. The Arab bloc has a built-in majority in the United Nations. We never stand the slightest chance.